The Story of Amanda Gorman

Once upon a time, there was a skinny black girl who stumbled upon words.

Whenever she tried to say words that contained the letter ‘R’ - for example - she hesitated because the sound of the letter ‘R’ did not want to come out of her mouth!

At first, she thought she could try to only use words that didn’t have the letter ‘R’. Why use the word ‘classRoom’ when you can say ‘class space’? Why use the word ‘RestauRant’ when you can say ‘eating place’? Who needs to ‘Run’ if they can ‘Gallup’? Who wants to wear ‘Red’ or ‘BRown’ or ‘GReen’ when they can wear ‘Yellow’?

It was fun! Besides, she really loved yellow.

But one day she discovered a beautiful song that was full of ‘R’s’. It was from a musical called ‘Hamilton’ and she loved to sing at the top of her lungs:

“PaRdon me, aRe you AaRon BuRR, siR?”

This was just the first verse!

R’s were almost in every word of the song and Amanda realized that they made the song even more fun! Her speech impediment wasn’t something to be afraid of, it was a gift because it helped her think about each and every word, about its meaning and about its sound.

Amanda realized that words, just like people, don’t need to be perfect in order to be powerful.

One day, she was reading a book by Marianne Deborah Williamson when her heart started racing. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,” Williamson wrote, “our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Amanda felt that those words were so true! “What if I am powerful beyond measure?” She thought. “What if my words could change the world?”

Amanda became a poet. She looked around and the words she stumbled upon became stepping stones. She looked at her neighborhood and

“There’s a poem in this place-”

she thought.

She wrote poems about the places and the people she saw and she read them aloud in theaters, in schools, in concert halls. She forgot about the ‘R’s’ because all the letters started coming out - each one wanting to carry a fragment of her feelings, a tiny portion of her big thoughts.

When the new President of the United States invited her to read one of her poems at his inauguration, Amanda wore a bright yellow coat and chose to read a poem titled “The Hill We Climb”. As she read it, little by little, the entire country stopped to hear what she had to say. When she was getting toward the end of the poem, she took a big breath and went through the last four verses:

“When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Then she stopped reading, and everyone took a big breath, feeling ready for a new day full of hope.

Goodnight,
Francesca Cavallo

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